Huge difference on environmental policy stands in Washington State’s gubernatorial race

Washington race for governor echoes typical Republican/Democrat gap on the environment-

In the late 1960s to the the late 70s, there wasn’t much difference between the two parties on “environmental” issues, as that set of issues  had become known. Both parties generally supported strong policies, especially when it came to cleaning the air, water, and use and disposal of toxic substances.

Things are much different today with Democrats taking a strong to moderate stance on these matters.  Republicans with very few exceptions run flat out against environmental issues, arguing that other things conflict with protecting the environment — things that  are much more important. Long time conservation groups like the Sierra Club (over 110 years old) are often called “environmental extremists” by Republicans.  Conspiracy theories about the “nefarious” origin of environmental policy are fairly common (such as the “Agenda 21” conspiracy).

The governor’s race in Washington State fits this partisan divide (which began with the election of Ronald Reagan). Democratic  gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, currently a member of the U.S. House has a rare 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, the oldest political action group for conservationists. Republican Rob McKenna, currently the state’s attorney general, is relatively moderate for a Republican on these issues, but is getting much campaign support from the forest products industry, oil industry, and the Koch Brothers and Koch allies who are part of the Koch Brothers’ $1 Million Donors Club.

Washington state has a number of strong environmental policies, stronger than the federal government.  Republicans almost always emphasize state’s rights. This has put Republican McKenna in the odd position of a Republican arguing for federal uniformity on environmental standards — rolling back Washington’s standards to match the weaker federal rules.

Polls indicate that Inslee’s positions are generally more popular in the state, but the environment has been a minor issue even though there have been dramatic and irreversible environmental changes recently, such as the North Pole melting in the summer.

A similar partisan split appears in thousands of other races nationwide this election year.

Here is a local story on the WA governor’s race Washington Gubernatorial Candidates On The Environment. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Earthfix.

Despite it being a “minor” issue, a number of people do vote based on Earth protection and closely related issues.  It is not uncommon to hear old time Republicans lament their party’s change. Where, oh where has GOP conservationist legacy gone? By Rebecca Eagan.

With the presidential election currently all tied up, the 3% going to the Green Party’s presidential candidate could tip the election.  This has also been little noticed because most presidential election polls don’t ask about “minor”parties.






  1. mikepost Avatar

    Be sure to click on that hyperlink for the Rebecca Eagan op-ed piece. Interesting thoughts.

  2. DLB Avatar

    I do disagree with Inslee’s support of wind farms in undeveloped areas. I would also like to look up whether he supported the ridiculous “Teanaway Solar Reserve” that was pitched by government subsidy scavengers and the lumber company that owned the land.

    This is a tough vote for me because McKenna appeals to my fiscal conservative side, but Inslee appeals to my environmental side. I’m not concerned with McKenna on social issues, because he isn’t stupid enough to go down that path in Washington State. Inslee’s immigration stance is troubling to me……..

    I’ve had a hard time forgiving McKenna for praising Butch Otter at a fundraiser in Bellevue last year.

    What’s interesting about this race for me is that I’m genuinely interested in both candidates, and it takes a higher level of thought and investigation to choose a favorite after sorting through all the important issues. I can’t say that about many races anymore.

    1. DLB Avatar

      Inslee lobbie for the Teanaway Solar Reserve even in the face of opposition from environmental groups:

      I think it’s important to push environmentally friendly western democrats not to rubber stamp environmentally destructive wind and solar projects. Many threads on the Wildlife News have highlighted how these projects are not necessarily green, no matter how hard the government subsidy pimps try and make them look that way.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        Right now wind and solar are being killed off by the Republicans. For example, there has been a huge reversal in Idaho. No subsidies will be coming from Congress.

        The Republicans’ reasons are wrong, however, They say they don’t like subsidies — choosing winners. Like hell they don’t! Oil, gas and nuclear have been heavily subsidized since their inception.

        I think, these vast solar and wind farms are mostly not going to materialize, and those that have won’t be maintained and in a few years abandoned.

        Abandonment is good. Solar and wind are excellent sources of energy that were quickly being deployed in a very negative way, using the old top down centralized generation method appropriate for big coal-fired power plants. The fact the Inslee has taken a bad position on this is probably because he listens to the big conservation groups, and a number of them were so excited stopping global warming/climate change that they were willing to accept all kinds of collateral environmental damage just to get the process going.

        Perhaps when it is reborn, solar will be deployed in a decentralized fashion, and maybe wind will employ designs that are not so centralized and have so many side effects as the classic wind turbine with blades 400 feet tall.

        1. Maska Avatar

          Thy word, to quote my late mother-in-law, in God’s ear. By the way, we’re putting photovoltaic panels on the garage roof of the little house we just bought. They’ll be installed next month. By Thanksgiving we should be selling electricity back to the electric company.

        2. JB Avatar

          I’m no sociologist, but it seems to me that this is a classic example of vested interests controlling power. No more subsidies for individual-level green energy generation–we will save those for the big guys with the lobbying power and the $$ to make our lives miserable (or our political careers short).

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan


            While all members of congress are not so mercenary, the general attitude of many is that way, e.g., “if the poor people want attention from me, they should give me donations of the same value to my reelection as the other interests. I’m a fair man. Then I will listen with equal attention.”

        3. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          Solar and wind are excellent sources of energy that were quickly being deployed in a very negative way, using the old top down centralized generation method appropriate for big coal-fired power plants.

          Yes, I have been concerned about this also – it seems we have to do them in a big way, a one-size fits all way, the way we seem to do everything. Wind may not be suitable for everyone or every geographic area, same for solar. But they sound green so that’s as far as anyone goes.

  3. Louise Kane Avatar

    Ralph you wrote, “With the presidential election currently all tied up, the 3% going to the Green Party’s presidential candidate could tip the election. This has also been little noticed because most presidential election polls don’t ask about “minor”parties.”

    I was a little shocked in the first debate when Obama did not defend or explain the administration’s initial decision not to support the Keystone pipeline. Romney used that as an indignant comment about one of the differences in policy that the two candidates had. Instead of seizing the moment to defend the adminsitartion’s stance Obama let it go and it came off badly in my mind like they had done something wrong. Close to 800,000 people signed a petition in one day against the pipeline. It would have been a great opportunity to illustrate their commitment to prevent unsound extractive industries from causing catastrophic environmental damage. I can’t understand why the campaign managers are not stressing the Democratic party’s relatively stable pro environmental stance (at least compared to the Rep stance) The comment by DBL is revealing in that many people care about protecting the environment yet they don’t have a strong candidate in either party. This is where the Dems could have an advantage and need one.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Yes Louise,

      Obama could have made it into a patriotic issue, and he needs to because Romney will wave the flag plenty in the next debate.